JENNY’S IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

It’s back!! Y’all be pleased to know the supposedly-weekly (but not at all weekly) ‘In the (mother) hood’ feature has returned! This is where we get the opportunity to virtually meet and get to know the Mamas we’ve been busy stalking a little better, learn what motivates them and be inspired etc.

This week all those boxes are being ticked because we have the wonderful Jenny from Top Five Baby on the blog sharing her story and experience of Motherhood thus far. Be warned it’s not all rose-tinted as Jenny and her husband sadly lost their beautiful little boy Elliott at just ten days old. Here Jenny talks about how those experiences have shaped her journey and how she’s managed to turn the loss of Elliott into something positive for Great Ormond Street Hospital in his memory…

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Name: Jenny Walker

Age: 32 (although my daughter tells everyone I’m STILL 21).

Location: North Derbyshire now, near Bakewell (was Stoke Newington until recently, all my babies were born in London)

Number of Kids: This is always a tricky question for me, if I give the most honest answer this confuses people and stuns many into silence, but I’m a mummy to three and always will be. My second baby, a little boy called Elliott, died at 10 days old and I have two girls now.

Names and ages of aforementioned: Nia age 4; Cora, 20 months (born a year and a day after her brother) and Elliott.

Was motherhood planned, a lovely surprise or somewhere in the middle?

Very much wanted and planned for all three.

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Pure delight.

How did you tell your partner?

I can’t remember exactly but I’m pretty sure I waved my wee stick in his face (probably every time!)

His reaction?

Very happy too (at least he seemed to be!) he was probably not too pleased about the wee stick in his face.

Did you glow your way through pregnancy or was it a complete bitch?

All three were nauseating for the first 14 weeks and then much better during the second trimester, followed by obstetric cholestasis (again all three pregnancies) at around 37/38 weeks. So not exactly dream pregnancies but as is always the case, I remember them being a lot easier than they were.

Tell me about your birth experience?

All three were hospital births at the Homerton in East London.

Nia: horrendous induction followed by epidural and forceps. Yikes.

Elliott: induction again but this time without pain relief (not on purpose) and a much calmer, happier experience. I gave birth standing up and he (sort of) fell onto a pillow. I did a lot more reading about being relaxed during birth (thank you Ina May Gaskin) and approached the whole process in a more accepting way (contractions = rushes/sensations etc).

Cora: another induction but I had my superstar midwife Cate (who had been my midwife with Elliott so knew my history) by my side. She knew what I wanted and was so gentle, kind and wonderful throughout the whole labour. I am grateful to her every day and am now very lucky to call her a friend. We pinched her name for Cora’s middle name. She’s Cora Cate.

Describe motherhood in a few words:

Awesome, happy, hard and the best thing I’ve ever done.

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Can you share any highlights?

Seeing my girls interact with each other and love each other so much. My four year old gets into bed in the morning with our 20 month old and (sort of) reads her stories. I watch and listen on the monitor and giggle in bed as it’s hilarious. Cora shouts for her big sister in the morning sometimes instead of us. Win!

Can you share any low points?

When my 4 year old tells me to “stop texting Mummy!” leading to the guilt. Why do Mummies have to have the guilt? I really don’t like the guilt!

What do you do when the baby sleeps?

At night I sleep! During the day I try and squeeze in some time to work on topfivebaby.com see below!

Have you got a business? 

I have spent much of the past year setting up a review site bringing together the best baby kit. It is called topfivebaby.com

I know there are other review sites out there but topfivebaby.com aims to make the research process super simple by doing all the leg work and narrowing it all down to five items in each of the categories covered.

Do you have another job (besides being a Mama)? 

Currently, trying to make topfivebaby.com a success! After everything we went through with Elliott I vowed never to return to an office. I’d been made redundant whilst pregnant with Elliott, and looking back it was the best thing that could have happened to me as it gave me an excuse to live in a much happier way.

After Elliott’s death I focussed most of my efforts on fundraising for Great Ormond Street Hospital where he had been treated. We have raised a lot of money and managed to put in place a special end of life care room at GOSH in Elliott’s memory for families in similar situations to ours (nothing like this existed when Elliott died).

I squeeze all of this in around the little people so I never really feel like I’ve finished a job, but I’m learning that this is actually ok.

What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

The cuddles and the kisses. I never want them to stop.

What are the worst bits?

Currently breath-holding. My youngest Cora, is punishing us with this. She breath-holds whenever she really hurts herself and it is terrifying for all of us to see because she passes out and goes blue. Given everything we’ve been through with Elliott we all panic every time it happens.

And losing a child. It really is an unearthly pain which very few people fully understand. We are extremely lucky to have had incredible help from Great Ormond Street after Elliott’s death. For anyone reading this who might be struggling, please do ask for help, it helps make something incomprehensible, eventually bearable.

What do you find hardest about being a Mum?

Trying to get on with “normal” life after Elliott died.

If someone agreed to mind your kids for a week what would you do?

Go to a beautiful spa hotel and relax. But I’d miss them if it was a whole week. A couple of nights would be enough (I think).

Have you got any advice for mamas-to-be/new mamas?

Go with your instincts, if you have just a tiny clue about what you’re doing then that should be enough. But if you’re still struggling, ask for help.

What’s do you reckon the most essential item mamas-to-be need to pack in their birth bag?

Lots of knickers, nursing bras, maternity and breast pads. Oh and all the stuff for the baby to wear plus nappies. I can’t think of just one thing, sorry!

What’s been your best baby product? 

I have to give you five 😉

1. The Medela Swing breast pump. It is really, really good.

2. The Stokke Tripp Trapp, so incredibly well designed and ergonomic. It allows your baby to be up at the table with the rest of the family right from the start (if you buy the newborn set).

3. Aden and Anais swaddles, they’re quite pricey but wonderful. We still use ours as bedding in the summer as they’re so lovely against the skin.

4. BabyBjorn soft bouncer. It is unobtrusive, easy to store, looks great and is a perfect, simple design.

5. I love my Ergobaby. Both our girls (still) go in them which means we can get to places we otherwise wouldn’t go with tired little legs.

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What was really useful in the early days?

My husband (he’s still useful though).

Did you make any baby-related /pregnancy hormone induced purchases that you regretted / were a total waste of money?

Yes, I bought our first buggy second hand thinking I was saving money. It was broken when I bought it (the brake didn’t work). I couldn’t do a thing about it as I had no receipt. I’ve spent more getting it fixed than if we’d bought new! So annoying!

What’s your ultimate mum product? 

Again another five!

1. Lovely smellies. I adore Neal’s Yard and recommend Seaweed and Arnica for post birth sore muscles. I also recommend their citrus hand wash and hand lotion. It is antibacterial and kind to hands that need washing every five minutes.

2. Concealer: I use Clinique’s All About Eyes. It’s really gentle, super easy to apply and seems to last forever.

3. Liz Earle hot wash cloth and cleanser. It makes cleaning my face super quick (including removing mascara!) with no need for anything else other than moisturiser and also lasts forever.

4. Bio Oil: not just for tums and thighs. I apply mine to my forehead and eye area at nighttime to discourage the wrinkles from getting any more obvious.

5. Eight hour cream. Massive “mum” cliche this one, but it seems to cure every little issue for all of us (Nia always seems to have an invisible scratch that needs attention) so I always have it on me.

Who inspires you?

My mum who managed four kids and a career and my sister who is doing the same.

Plus I’m constantly inspired all the time by friends just doing their best at this mothering malarkey, whether they go to work and do it, whether they’re running their own business and especially if they’re managing to get through full time without anything else but being a mummy superstar.

How many children do you dream of having?

Just one more.

If you could go back to your pre-child life,  for a short period of time, what would you do?

Cliche again, but I’d take a few more long haul flights!

What do you miss about life before kids?

Not having to book a babysitter whenever you want to go out and drink wine.

What do you love most about being a Mum?

The fact that I’m their mum and that I know no one else (apart from their dad) loves them like I do.

What do you wish you were better at when it comes to parenting?

There is a constant pressure on us all at the moment to “be more present”. What does that even mean anyway? Putting pressure on yourself to enjoy all the moments can make those moments a lot more stressful.

 

A big thank you to Jenny for sharing her journey with us; she is one brave, strong and inspiring lady! If you’d like to make a donation and support the family’s fundraising efforts for GOSH, then just visit their page here.

Also do make sure you check out Top Five Baby before making any baby-related purchases! I for one think it’s a FAB idea. I’m sure I speak for most mums when I say we’re a time-poor collective so anything that makes the process of deciding which bit of baby paraphernalia to buy a little easier, is surely a winner. You’ll also be happy to know the site is very clean, simple and user-friendly. Check it out!

Finally, if you’d like to feature on the blog as part of the ‘In the (mother) hood’ series, just drop me an email: thedoublemama@gmail.com

 

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CAT’S IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

OMG!! We’ve only got Cat Bloody Sims IN THE MOTHER FREAKING HOOD!! If you’re a fan of the blog Not So Smug Now (no bullshit baby tales) you’ll know who Cat is and if you’re yet to become acquainted (what the hell are you waiting for?!), let me tell you about Cat… She’s got great hair, proper platinum blonde, unlike my past attempts to go blonde. She’s married to a real life ROCK STAR. Her daughter has a wicked name (but then what child with rockstar parents doesn’t?!). She’s funny and candid and clever and massively supportive of the sisterhood. She’s a brilliant writer and it’s a total honour to be able to feature her here. So read on people and find out what makes this Mama tick…

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Name: Cat Sims

Age: 34

Location: Harrow, London (just)

Number of Kids: 1 so far…

Names and ages of aforementioned: Billie Scout Sims (2yrs)

Was motherhood planned, a lovely surprise or somewhere in the middle?

Definitely planned but not the easy ride we thought it would be. Between a distinct lack of ovulating and a husband on tour…we were lucky to get any time to bump uglies, let alone manage to do it at the right time!

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Elated, terrified, disbelieving. The usual…

How did you tell your partner?

I think I screamed it through the bathroom door while he was on the loo. Totes romantic.

His reaction?

Elated, terrified, disbelieving. The usual…

Did you glow your way through pregnancy or was it a complete bitch?

I spent the first twelve weeks writhing in nausea-induced agony and throwing up into McDonald’s cups as I drove up the M40 to work. After that I felt great but never benefitted from the ‘great hair, great nails, great skin’ thing. I did get some AMAZING varicose veins though, so that was nice.

Tell me about your birth experience…

It wasn’t ideal. I thought I was prepared but when the time came I was woefully unprepared, especially emotionally. I was frightened by the power of labour and definitely suffered from an overdose of adrenaline. Labour was laborious and progressed painfully slowly – because of my fear and panic, I felt I was fighting labour and birth rather than embracing it. Billie was back-to-back which made it longer, slower, more painful and my dream of a water birth in the birthing centre quickly evaporated when I lost my strength and will and decided to have an epidural. In the end, that was the best decision I could have made at the time but it meant that I felt powerless and out of control and scared. Next time, I’m hypnobirthing and home-birthing my way through it.

Describe motherhood in a few words:

What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. And ‘love’…lashings of love.

Can you share any highlights?

The moment my daughter turned around to me while I was being super snarky to her dad in the car and said, “Mama, don’t be a dick.” It’s a mantra in our house (amongst the grown ups!) and I remember being shocked and then thinking, “Well, if that’s the philosophy she leaves our house with I’m ok with that.” We possibly could have phrased it better, but in the end, if you live your life thinking, “Just don’t be a dick” then there are worse guiding principles. Plus, she was right, I was being a dick.

Can you share any low points?

Not catching Billie as she plumetted face first on the concrete and broke a front tooth. Trapping her fingers in the front door. Epic fails.

What do you do when the baby sleeps?

Clean the house. I can’t do anything else until the house is clean so I spend the first 30-45 mins straightening everything out. After that, I’ll work, or read Grazia, or look at my phone. Who am I kidding…I pretty much look at my phone.

Tell me about your blog…

I started Not So Smug Now: No Bullshit Baby Tales when Billie was about nine months. At first it was just therapy, you know? I couldn’t find any blogs that were reflecting my experience which was positive but hard, really hard. I wanted to create a space where people felt safe to say “those first few months were the hardest of my life” without being called a bad parent, or a depressed parent. I wanted to create a place where there was no judgement – I didn’t care whether you breastfed or bottle fed your baby, whether you used Pampers or cloth nappies hand spun from the pubic hair of mythical elves hiding deep in the Himalayas…I felt that, regardless of our parenting choices, we were all women and all in this together. Parenting for me is like cage-fighting – there are no rules, we do what we need to do to survive.

I wanted to sidestep the competition, the way we had been pitted against each other seemed unnatural and unhelpful. Thankfully, through the blog I discovered a host of likeminded women who inspire me daily. There’s definitely a change in the air – the sisterhood is growing daily. It’s pretty cool to be a (pretty small) part of.

Tell me about your biz…

Last year I launched a consultancy company called Hustle + Fox with my business partner and all-round awesome lady, Gayle Haddock (owner of Carnaby Street baby boutique Carry Me Home). We had really complimentary skills – she was an expert when it came to the business side of launching products, developing brands and building businesses. All my experience was within pr and marketing, writing and social media. We both had great networks through the blog and the shop and when we came together we were able to really help and support new companies trying to create their own empires.

I’m really proud of the fact that many of the companies we work with are started by mums and dads – it’s awesome to see them create amazing companies in the spaces between their ‘real’ jobs, family, naps, nappy changes. You know? That takes real hutzpah and we get to be surrounded by their creativity and enthusiasm every day. That’s pretty inspiring.

How you juggle the logistics of raising children with work?

It’s never easy. Inevitably you end up feeling like you’re not giving 100% to being a mum or running a business. I’m lucky in some ways because my husband is a musician which means that when he’s home, he’s home 100% meaning we can parent 50/50. The downside is that when he’s on tour, I’m a single-working parent living a hundred miles away from my nearest family member. That’s tough, but we make it work. You just do what you have to do.

What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

Having a buddy. Billie has a wicked sense of humour. I love seeing her personality develop and she makes me laugh everyday. It’s also opened up a whole new world to me of amazing mamas that have become friends. It’s also made me less selfish, more compassionate and way more chilled. I have perspective now.

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What are the worst bits?

The laundry. Hangovers. Sleep deprivation. A useless pelvic floor.

What do you find hardest about being a Mum?

Managing the guilt. Am I doing enough? Am I being enough? Am I giving enough? It’s an endless internal battle.

What was the biggest surprise that you wish you’d be warned about/known before becoming a Mama?

Ha! The million dollar question! That transition from ‘me’ to ‘mama’ was the hardest one I’ve ever made. I’m sure people tried to tell me but you can’t hear it, you just can’t comprehend what that will feel like until you hoof a baby out of your woo-woo and bring it home and look at it and think, “What the fuck now?” For me, it was overwhelming. I don’t know if that makes me different or just willing to be open about it, but I wish there was some way of preparing women fully for that.

If someone agreed to mind your kid(s) for a week what would you do?

I’d pack a bag for myself and my husband and go to a fabulous beach. I know it’s not very original, but I’d spend a week in a bikini, drinking cocktails from 11am, reading books, eating fresh seafood, taking long walks and sleeping. Oh and we’d have sex. Lots of it. I fantasise about that week daily.

Have you got any advice for mamas-to-be/new mamas?

Yes. Rest. Don’t feel like you have to entertain. Batten down the hatches for the first ten days and stay in bed, watch movies, snuggle with the family and bond. Don’t let anyone in that hasn’t brought food and don’t feel the need to get up for anyone. Just be…there’s so much time to race around and make meals and host guests and do it all on 3 hours sleep that those first few days are the only chance you get to be entirely selfish. Make the most of it.

What’s do you reckon the most essential item mamas-to-be need to pack in their birth bag?

Obviously, pack all those boring essentials that are on every list but make it something special too. Pack brand new, gorgeous jammies, a bag of special gorgeous products to wash with afterwards. That kind of stuff. You’ll need some pampering after labour and it’ll feel great to treat yourself. Oh and lip balm. My lips got so dry!

What’s been your best baby product? 

From the day she was born I used all the Naty products. Everything else either dried her out or was full of crap…but the Naty products were amazing everytime. Also, we bought the Stokke Trip-Trapp which at the time I was furious about – why didn’t we just get the IKEA one!? – but now that she’s still using it as an adjustable chair and will continue to use it I can’t recommend it enough. I’d buy another one for a second baby.

What was really useful in the early days?

My Connecta sling. Super easy to use, super comfortable, small enough to shove in a bag, not bulky. Best buy ever.

Did you make any baby-related /pregnancy hormone-induced purchases that you regretted / were a total waste of money?

Not really but only because we were renovating a house at the time so there was literally no spare money to splurge. My husband would probably disagree.

What’s your ultimate mum product? 

Anything at all that makes my face look acceptable. The Garnier BB cream works wonders for me. And trainers. Since becoming a mum I’m all about the trainers.

Who inspires you?

Oh…so many to mention. I’ve been so fortunate to meet so many amazing women – mostly through Mothers Meeting (thanks Jenny Scott!). I never thought motherhood could be so damn awesome. I was pretty much resigned to a life of soggy custard creams and manky soft-play but along came women like Anna from Mother Pukka, Steph from Don’t Buy Her Flowers, Zoe from Dress Like a Mum, Clemmie T from Mother of All Lists, Clemmie H from Gas and Air, Hollie from London Hypnobirthing and of course yourself. These women are almost singlehandedly changing the face of motherhood with compassion and sisterhood but with a shit load of humour too. And booze obvs.

How many children do you dream of having?

I’m going to be done with two. I know my limits!

If you could go back to your pre-child life, where you weren’t so tired, for a short period of time, what would you do?

Start a business. I wish I’d know how efficient I could be. It’s only since becoming a mother that I realise I can do what used to take me all week in a day. I’d literally be running the world by now if I’d known my own potential!

What do you miss about life before kids?

With a little bit of planning you can pretty much do everything you did before, it’s just harder to organise you know? I guess spontaneity. Just being able to do things because we feel like it.

What do you wish you were better at when it comes to parenting?

Playing. I’m pretty terrible at maintaining interest in building blocks or having make-believe tea-parties. I wish I was better at it but it’s really not my strength. I’m much better at planing adventures, getting out of the house, that kind of thing. Thankfully my husband is amazing at the play thing so he has that covered.

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MAHOUSIVE THANKS to Cat for not only taking part but answering ALL the questions! I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading her answers as much as I did… Make sure you check out her blog Not So Smug Now (if you haven’t already) and of course if you’ve got a small biz that you’re trying to grow then get in touch with Cat via Hustle + Fox and I’ve no doubt she’ll be able to work her magic.

If you’d like to take part and feature here, In The Mother Hood, I’d love to hear from you! Just email thedoublemama@gmail.com 🙂